BY ISN STAFF | July 27, 2023
On May 3, 2023, over 100 parish ministers and volunteers from the Jesuit and broader Catholic network gathered online for the 2023 Ignatian Parish Justice Summit.
The 2023 theme was Cultivating Communities of Solidarity and Service, emphasizing the key role that parishes play in working for justice. The summit’s virtual format allowed for accessibility and brought in a diverse group of attendees with a range of interests in parish justice work, from migration and restorative justice to anti-racism and food justice.
The Summit started with prayer and a keynote by Danielle Harrison of St. Louis, MO on answering the invitation to be workers in the vineyard as an Ignatian parish. “In today’s world, we need people who are courageous and places of worship that allow for critical conversations and a deepening invitation to find God in all things,” she said. “The beauty of an Ignatian parish is the permission to cultivate a faith that does justice not only in our personal journeys of faith, but also as a community of believers. If we are to engage in the work of allyship, then we must be ready to be authentic and vulnerable-in order to form relationships with one another.”
Later in the day, summit participants could opt into breakout sessions according to their areas of interest. The topics included relational organizing, exploring the pastoral circle, and an introduction to Migration Accompaniment Network. Nancy Lorence, who presented an additional breakout session on Parishes as Hubs of Environmental Advocacy, said of parishes’ potential for responding to the climate crisis: “The challenge is for us to respond to the urgency of addressing climate change—which is already happening faster than was predicted—and maintaining a sense of hope that is based not just in prayer as a people of hope, but also in actions that make us feel we are making a difference.” Lorence went on to share that “ISN is one place and space for us to be nourished as a community so that we can create and nourish community in our own parishes and motivate people to move from faith to action.”
With the Synod on Synodality bringing the Church into a particular focus on uplifting the voices of everyday Catholics, a breakout session led by Lisa Amman and Maureen O’Connell of Discerning Deacons focused on synodality and parish justice work that included an open-source handout on synodal discernment for parishes to access for future use.
“There is just so much good news to share about the global synod,” explained Amman, deputy director of engagement for Discerning Deacons. “We still have nearly 18 months of the journey ahead. It’s not too late for parishes to accept [Pope] Francis’ invitation to participate, especially now that we have the Instrumentum Laboris, or the working document for the Universal Assembly in Rome this October, which explicitly invites all of us to discern with the same sets of priorities and questions that the delegates will take up.”
Maureen O’Connell, director of higher education and synod engagement with Discerning Deacons agreed. “Through encounter, listening and dialogue, the whole Church is learning what matters most to the People of God and what the Holy Spirit is prompting the Church to become in order to better respond to those laments and hopes. This makes the synodal process a method of justice, a way of being Church that attends to the crises facing our local communities, our people. It’s so critical that local parishes learn and practice the synodal method and accept the invitation to continue to participate in it.”
The summit closed with networking sessions on racial justice, ecological justice, migration, and ethical purchasing, and participants continued to collaborate asynchronously with questions and insights on an anonymous bulletin board. There, many posed questions on topics such as engaging small congregations, on involving young people in parish justice work, and in bringing up tough topics like racism in parishes. One anonymous takeaway underlines the ethos of the entire summit: “Relationality is sacramental.”